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Legal Theft: Visiting Dad (1141 words)

Marcus waited patiently for Lewis to arrive. He should have known better. Lewis, in the entire twenty-one years of his life, had never been on time for a meeting even once. Why would he expect him to start showing up now? Not like this was a hard day for Marcus and he could use the support of having a concrete schedule or anything. Nope. Lewis always moved at his own pace.

When Lewis came around the corner with a pack of fried dough in his hand, and a piece to be handed to Marcus—her forgave Lewis completely. It was the basis of their friendship that Marcus always forgave Lewis completely because it was the only thing that kept Lewis forgiving Marcus when he messed up.

“Does your mom know you’re here?” Lewis asked as a greeting.

Marcus laughed out loud. “She’d kill me. Then you for good measure. And then probably me again.”

Lewis took a thoughtful bite out of his dough. “Fair enough,” he conceded through his full mouth.

Marcus made a disgusted sound, which was only doubled when Lewis laughed open-mouthed with the bread still there.  “I hate you.”

“Course you do,” Lewis grinned, throwing his non-bread carrying arm around Marcus’ shoulders. “Lead the way.”

Marcus did just that. They walked in silence, chewing on their bread.  About a half hour later, they were leaving the outskirts of the town, making their way down the path through the woods, passing the occasional clearing where people had set up little camps. Some of them were the more permeant camps of people who worked in the city but couldn’t afford to live anywhere else inside the city limits. Others were the temporary camps of people who were traveling by but didn’t want any official record of them staying here.  It was one of the latter camps that they were looking for.

It had been almost seven years, but Marcus still recognized him as they approached the camp, as easily as if they’d seen each other the week before—although neither Marcus nor his father looked anything like the same as they had on that night seven years ago.

He finished the last bites of his bread and turned back to make sure Lewis had done the same. Together, they stepped into the little clearing, both of their hands half-raised, fingers spread, so he could easily see that they didn’t have any weapons in their grip.

“Hey Dad,” Marcus called, trying not to startle him.

The old man looked up from his little campfire, and gave his son a small smile. “Markie.” He stood up and shook his son’s hand. “And Little Lewy. Well, I never.”

“Oh, sir, no one calls me Lewy anymore,” Lewis chuckled, shaking the hand offered him.

“Well, I’m sure no one calls him Markie, and certainly no one calls me sir,” he laughed, sinking back down onto the log he was using as a bench at the side of the fire. “So—let’s agree. Lewis. Mark. And Dad or Jameson as our respective relationships dictate?”

“Sure, Jameson.” Lewis offered because Marcus didn’t seem like there was anything he had to say. Lewis and Marcus sat down on a log on the opposite side of the fire.

“So—“ Jameson prompted, but no one picked up the thread, “Well. Uh, does your mother know you’re here?”

Marcus didn’t find the question as humorous this time around. “You’re not in shackles, are you? Do you really think that my mother is at all aware you are in the same country, let alone the same town?”

“That’s…a fair point,” Jameson replied. “I know I’ve told you before, but I feel the need to tell you, again and again, I never meant to hurt you and your mother that way. But I can’t choose who I am and I can’t change my nature. It was foolish of your mother to think I could and it was foolish of me to try.”

“I know, Dad. I’ve heard it before, and you haven’t changed the song,” Marcus answered, softening despite himself. He hated his father and unconditionally loved his father all at the same time. It was such an awkward position to be put into. “Why did you ask me to come out here, Dad? This can’t be the first time in seven years you’ve been in the area. Why now?”

“I found something.” Jameson’s hand went to a charm that was hanging off his neck. “It was your grandfathers—and then it was mine for a while before it was lost. And—I figure that it should be yours. You’ll keep better care of it then I ever could, and you can keep it in the family if you decide to have a family of your own.”

He pulled the cord off from around his neck and handed it over to Marcus at the side of the fire. It was a silver disc, about half the size of Marcus’ palm, tied to a piece of leather cord. “It’s supposed to be good luck if you believe in that kind of nonsense. Your grandfather certainly did, and I know your mother does—I’m not so sure. But I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.”

Marcus turned the circle over and over again his hand, trying to figure out what the appropriate response was to a random piece of metal. “This is it?” he finally settled on. “You wanted to see me because you had a necklace to give me.” He could feel the anger starting to rise in his blood, and tried to stamp it down as quickly as it had appeared. His father was the one with the temper—and Marcus did all he could to try and hide the fact he had inherited that.

“Well, yeah,” His father looked a bit deflated, “It was your grandfathers, and I thought it was something you might like to have.”

Marcus considered tossing the necklace into the fire—but that was the temper talking.  That was something his father would have done. Not him. Instead, he slipped the circle into his pocket and gave Lewis a look that said it was time to go.  “Thanks, Dad,” he offered, starting to pack away from the fire.

“Will I see you again while I’m in town?” Jameson asked.

“I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know.”  Jameson didn’t press for a more concrete answer, so Marcus turned on his heel and walked away.  Lewis caught up with Marcus quickly, throwing an arm around Marcus’ shoulders again. “I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea,” Marcus confided.

“Well, at least we got some good bread out of all this,” Lewis offered with a grin. “That’s not nothing.”

Marcus laughed, suddenly remembering why he had invited Lewis to this. “Yeah, that’s not nothing.”

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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Cousins Story [Part 1] (915 words)

It was a rainy day in March when I came home to find too many cars in my driveway. Our neighborhood of townhouses didn’t leave much room for on the street parking, so I had to drive back out into the next neighborhood over to find a spot, gather my school bags in a way that was going to make sure nothing important was going to get wet, and triple check that my car was locked since I wouldn’t be able to see it from the house.

So, I was already in a bit of a mood when I finally made it into the house. This was not helped by the sound of my mother yelling. I knew there was only one person in the world who could make her yell like that, so I dropped my bags by the door and headed towards the living room to find my proof.

Sitting on the couch playing Xbox was my cousin Aria, the oldest daughter of my mother’s twin brother. I sat down hard on the couch next to her, turning up the TV volume a few more notches to help drown out the yelling. Aria silently handed me the second controller. We played in the sulky silence that only two seventeen-year-olds can probably manage for a few minutes before I sighed. “Were we expecting you guys?”

“Madison left,” Aria sighed back, going for a rather impress kill shot, “And from the sound of the earlier yelling—she took all his money.”

I let out a slow whistle through my teeth. “This might be the worst one yet.

“A-yup,” Aria agreed, “Dad really messed up this time.”

Aria’s mom had left when she was only seven-months-old. In the sixteen in a half years since, my Uncle Tom has lived with seven different women, encouraging Aria and later her half-brother to consider each woman like their new step-mother. None of them ended well.  This one, Madison, had been bad news from the beginning in my humble opinion but had given Aria a half-sister and there was no talking Uncle Tom out of it especially not with a new child involved.

Mom said it had a lot to do with abandonment issues. Uncle Tom had really loved his first wife, Aria’s mom, and now he felt desperate to cling to each new love, no matter how unadvised that love was.

Despite the Xbox, we heard the end of the argument. We knew it well at this point.  It started with “Okay, Tom, I can’t finish this with you right now.”

“Oh, come on, Holly.”

“No, Tom, I need some air.”

Aria paused the game and we both looked towards the stairs.  My mom appeared around the bend, pinching the bridge of her nose. After a moment, she realized the room was silent and looked up to see us watching her.

“Oh, hello, lovely ladies,” My mom grinned, coming the rest of the way down the stairs. “Having fun?” Aria and I just kept staring back at her. “Okay,” Mom clapped, “Melody, I need to talk to you in the backyard for a second.

“Mom, it’s pouring out,” I protested.

“Mel, now.” My mom said curtly, already half-out the back door.

“Nngh,” I groaned sinking boneless-ly into the couch.

“I’ll keep it paused till you get back,” Aria offered.

“Nah—I’m just bringing you down anyway.” I stood up and stretched, “When you’re finished, can you try to unlock the new sniper rifle for me?”

“Ten-four, cuz.” Aria was already sucked back into the game.

When I got into the backyard, I found my mother standing with her face turned up to the rain. “I hate my brother,” She said when she heard the door close. “I love my brother, but I hate my brother.”

“I know,” I answered.

Mom turned and looked at me. “Oh, I wish your father was here.”

“I know,” I said again. My dad had been around until I was fifteen months old. I was eleven months old when he was diagnosed with a glioblastoma—a fast-growing brain tumor. After he died, mom hasn’t even looked at dating as far as I could tell. I think Mom had some abandonment issues of her own.

“Melody, I’m going to need you to make a couple of sacrifices in the name of the family,” Mom smiled in that slightly sickeningly way that I was about to have to agree to something that I didn’t want to agree to.

“The cousins are staying here for a couple of days, aren’t they? While Uncle Tom goes and sorts this all out?”  I sighed, thinking of Aria’s air mattress taking up most of my bedroom floor.

“Not quite,” Mom gave me a look—before launching into the usual over explanations she always had prepared when she was going to ask me for something we both knew was going to be unfair. “Madison took everything, Mel. All his money, the TVs, Aria’s videogames—anything that could be of value—she stole it. Your uncle has five dollars in his bank account, $40 in his wallet, and nothing he can even sell to pay the rent.”

I let this information process before what my mom was trying to say fell into sharp relief. “Mom. No. You cannot be saying what I think you are saying.”

Mom put on her best ‘making good of a bad situation’ smile. “Your Uncle Tom and cousins are moving in with us for a while.  Won’t that be fun?”

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Cousins Story

 

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Legal Theft Project: Goodnight

Rain drowned the world in white noise. It drowned out the sound of her grandmother’s rocking chair. It muted the sound of her brother’s music. It–well, didn’t do much for her sister’s snoring from the other bed–but it did give her something else to focus on for a little while.

Lisa rolled over and watched the window. The light from the streetlight let the rain make strange patterns and shadows along the length of the window. She tried to make pictures out of them the way she used to lay on the ground, look at the sky and tell a story with the shapes of the clouds. These were yellow and black stories instead of blue and white, but they still calmed her–imagining a world that was so different than her own in any way. Eventually, her eyelids grew too heavy to keep open, but she kept making up the stories, telling herself all kinds of crazy things until she slipped away to sleep, hoping tomorrow night it would still be raining.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Legal Theft Project

 

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Fiction: Opening Doors (504 words)

“We’re not allowed in here,” the nine-year-old boy said quietly at the doorway, not bothering to hide the fear in his voice. The five-year-old girl heard that fear and hid from Linea behind the boy’s shoulder, still not letting go of the boy’s hand. “We can’t afford to be kicked out,” the boy continued, “We don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Your sister is too scared to sleep downstairs,” Linea pointed out, “You guys have been here for three nights and she hasn’t shut her eyes once.  It’s my room, and I am allowed to do say who is and isn’t allowed to be in here.” She gave a small stomp of her foot with the determination that only a well-protected nine-year-old had.

The boy still looked hesitant to come into the room, and Linea crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes. “If you want to be stubborn for your own sake, that’s fine, but that girl needs to sleep. Are you really going to let your pride prevent her from sleeping?”

That was the final blow. There was nothing that he wouldn’t do for his sister, and Linea had already figured that much out. Not that it was hard to figure that much out from him. He wasn’t shy about his love for her.

“Thank you,” he said, almost meekly. He stepped in and had to give the girl a gentle tug on the arm to get her to follow him across the threshold. “Come on, Nia. She’s letting us use her room so we can be alone. Isn’t that nice?”

The little girl gave the smallest of nods.

He looked up at Linea with a genuine smile.  “Nia, what do we say when people do nice things for us?”

Nia stepped out from behind her brother and let out the quickest and quietest “Thank you” Linea had ever heard before disappearing back behind her brother. He rolled his eyes good-naturedly at Linea like can you believe her?

“Nia, you can have my bed if you like,” Linea offered, “I know you’ve had a rough couple of days. I can stay with my mom in her room so you two can get some sleep, and that way my mom will know for sure that I let you two in here myself, and there won’t be any question of making you leave the house for being in here.”

She started to head out of the room, but the boy came forward and took Linea’s hand carefully. “Thank you. Truly,” He repeated earnestly.

“Of course. I’ll see you in the morning.”  Linea dropped his hand and shut the door behind her. It was only as she was walking towards her mother’s room that she realized that she knew the little girl was named Nia, but she had no idea what the boy’s name was. She would have to find that out tomorrow. Because she had a feeling that tonight would not be the last time that she was interacting with those two.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft Project– Caring for her Father (518 words)

She almost didn’t answer the call. Jean knew the number by now, even though she had never saved it into her phone. She looked down at the number and for a moment, just a moment, thought that she just didn’t want to know. She didn’t want that added stress in this moment. She could wait, and find out what was wrong later.  

But just as fast as the thought came into her mind, it vanished.  She swiped the green button and pulled it up to her ear. “What’s the news now?”  

“Not good, Miss Strune,” Her Dad’s nurse replied, calling from the phone in his hospital room. Jean was always impressed how she managed to sounds just cheery enough to be reassuring, but professional enough to not give bad news in an annoyingly perky way like some of their previous nurses had been. Jean liked this nurse an awful lot. Maybe that was the reason that she really had answered the phone. “We’re having some pretty serious memory problems today. I’m sure that Mr. Strune would absolutely love a visit from you today to help him fill in some of the blanks if you have any time.”  

“Right,” Jean said slowly, “Well, tell him that I love him and that I’ll try to be by this afternoon.  Remind him that he really hated the place that Mom was staying before—that might help placate him for a little while until I can show up and be a bit more helpful.”  

“Thanks a lot, Miss Strune.  Sorry that I could have better news for you this morning.”  

“That’s alright, Jasmine. I know it’s not your fault.  I’ll see you this afternoon.” Jean waited for the click that meant she’d hung up. She never hung up first just in case there was something else that the nurse needed to tell her before the conversation ended.  Luckily, there was no more today.  

Jean chuckled to herself darkly. Luckily all she had to deal with today was the continuing degrading of her father’s mental state, to the point where he was slowly forgetting the years of his life further and further back.  

Jean looked at the work laid about before her. She had such lofty plans for what she could get done with her free time today. She should have known better than to try to have an all work day. It was like her dad could sense when she had a lot to do and saved his most spectacular breakdowns for those days.  

Jean took a deep breath and tried to bring her temper back down. She could be mad that all this shit was happening to her dad, no one would blame her for that. But getting mad at him, especially for things that weren’t actually his fault—that wasn’t going to help anyone at all.  

She was going to take a deep breath, spend some time properly enjoying her breakfast and keeping her mind in check, and then she would head over to the nursing home and try to figure out which ways she could help her dad today.  

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Losses (530 words)

Edith sat on the edge of her bed. She was waiting for something that was never going to happen. There was no one coming home to her. Her father was gone. Her husband was gone. Her son was gone. Literally, everything that this war could take from her short of her own life–it had. She sat alone at the edge of her bed, watching her door as if one of them might come walking in any way.  And with each second that passed with no one there, her heart grew a little heavier.

She allowed herself exactly ten minutes that morning to sit there in blind grief, silent and afraid. Then she had to stand up and face the world again. She’d been sitting in silence and fear without noticing time passing since she was first brought her the news. She’d stay here forever if she didn’t press forward today. Those soldiers, her men, didn’t go off to fight for her to fall apart. They didn’t go out and die so that she could spend the rest of her time moping and wishing that they hadn’t gone to fight for her country and everything they believed was right and good.  She pulled herself to her feet, tied up her hair, and headed out into the living room.

Her neighbors looked up in surprise at her reappearing. “Edie, are you okay?” Her friend Marie asked, before wincing, “I mean, of course, you aren’t okay, but I mean–” Marie shook her head again and tried to offer Edith a sad smile. “What I’m trying to say is that we understand if you just want to have a quiet day today.”

“I don’t think that sitting alone in my room dwelling on my sadness is going to be much help to anyone,” Edith answered with a perk in her voice—it sounded terrible even to her own ears, but she wasn’t sure what else she might sound like if she tried. “Please, Marie, give me something to do. Don’t make sit in there alone.”  This desperate tone was no better at all—she almost preferred the overly cheery tone.  But it seemed to be exactly what Marie needed to hear from her.

“Of course, of course. Do you want to work on something small or something big today?” Marie asked gesturing to the other women in the room.

“Big, I think,” Edith answered quickly, so she wouldn’t have time to analyze the tone that her voice was taking now.

“Okay then. Talk to Eleanor,” Marie gestured to the oldest woman in the room, sitting near the fireplace, “She’ll give you something big, and keep you as busy as you want to be.” She reached out and took Edith’s hand, pulling her in closer so that Marie’s next words could only be heard by Edith. “But as soon as you need an out, go. No one here will fault you for leaving work undone for a while, okay? Don’t feel pressured to get it done.”

Edith nodded slightly at Marie. “Thank you. But—I need this.”

Marie nodded as well, and let go of Edith’s hand. “Go see Eleanor, She’ll get you set up.”

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft Project–Family Changes (556 words)

The lock clicked in a different way when it was opened with a key.  It was a simple and steady motion as the key pushed the tumblers in place, rather than the slight hesitation between each pin. Even though Angel and Oliver had gotten pretty good at picking the lock on the front door—they weren’t as fast or smooth as the key, as Jennifer’s key.

The children all looked at each other, and then at the room around them. If Jennifer’s key was already in the lock it was too late to try to clean up or hide everything they had gotten up to since the last time that Jennifer had been home. Still, they all pulled themselves quickly to their feet, trying to pull their clothes as straight as possible and tying their hair back as tightly as they could, to put up some level of present-ability.

Jennifer came in, turned the lock the door quickly behind her, before turning to smile at the line of children in a sharp row. Her smile only faltered a little as she looked around at the various art projects and destruction of small electronics and what looked to be a small failed chemical experiment in one of the corners. “We’ve been busy while I was away, haven’t we?” she said weakly, turning from the mess back to the six children in front of her.

“Yes Ma’am,” they all answered in unison, each trying to figure out in their own ways just how mad Jennifer actually was.

Jennifer made a show of counting the six of them slowly and pointedly. “Six, all under eleven summers old. We appear to be missing those two who were supposed to be taking care of you all.”

The six children all shifted back and forth on their feet before Margaret—the oldest and bravest of the little ones—spoke up. “They left a couple hours ago,” She informed Jennifer in a clean soprano, “They went out. Together.”

There was a lot of giggling behind hands now. Jennifer crossed her arms over her chest. “What’s all this now?” she asked in her slightly stern voice.

“I saw them,” Benjamin—the youngest, four summers old Jennifer guessed, “They were…kissing.” He whispered the last word as if it was a swear, and the other five children burst into giggles.

Jennifer sighed. It was only a matter of time. Her son Oliver had developed a crush on Angel all those years ago when she first came to stay with their family—the first of the little orphans Jennifer couldn’t help but bring into her home when she found them alone on the streets. She didn’t care if they were together as long as they were both happy. But she did care an awful lot about them neglecting their duties to be together.

“Very well.  What’s say we get to cleaning this place up right now, and I’ll have a talk with Oliver and Angel later, yes?”

“Yes Ma’am,” They call chorused again, before heading away to start the cleaning process following their well-practiced routines. Jennifer pinched the bridge of her nose almost unconsciously, before sighing. It was bad enough now that just the two of them were teenagers. What in the world was she going to do when the six little ones were teenagers too?

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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